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 Post subject: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 9:56 am 
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I noticed in another section that a few people are looking to modify certain rules in order to give plate more of an advantage. While i am far too new to offer my 2c on the rules, i am curious as to the historical argument that was made. The argument was that plate was far more prevalent than leather for armor.

While leather isn't the most sturdy of armors, it does provide some protection. A good analogy would be a bullet proof vest from today vs the flack jackets of WW2. While the flak jacket isn't the best, it's still no slouch and does offer some limited protection.

I don't see plate as the only historical armor of note. Sure its the one you always hear about because of the movies, and frankly because its one of the only things to actually survive the hundreds of years between then and now. I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that Leather armor was actually in use far more than plate ever was for several reasons. It's cheep, it's easier to make, increased mobility, It's light, and very good protection for it's weight.

For every battle with plate armored knights and sieges with plate wearing armies facing off against each other, i see a dozen battles of lesser note fought by mostly leather clad warriors.

Anyway, it just got me thinking how valid the argument actually is that Plate armor is more historically accurate. I think theres a little wiggle room there.


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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:50 pm 
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Owning a full suit of plate armour in the middle ages would be reserved for people who were exreamly well off and of high status. So there would have been a lot less of it being worn. And, you are right that it holds up to time a lot better than leather. But it also would have been passed along as inharitance so that means you had less people being buried in their gear. In battle plate armopur would have held up better so it would have been replaced less often as well, ie. not being scrapped to make other stuff. Actually the most common armour would have been padded garments with spints if you were lucky and if you were really lucky, maille on top of it.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:25 pm 
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Back then, most armor was passed down, stolen, or just pulled off a dead body. Full sets were rare, mismatched was everywhere non military.
The foot soldiers had minimum matching armor because they were replaceable. Hose the metal helmet, and give to the next guy with a non-bloodstained possibly-used tunic.

Leather can be made from anywhere, but was considered more savage and less lordship/royal etc.

I would rather wear leather because I prefer speed to endurance in a battle. I prefer to flank and gorilla tactic the enemy line than charge in and trust way too much on my armor.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:09 pm 
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Oh i agree. i wouldn't wear plate even if there was a bonus associated with it. I don't fancy sweating to death just to walk across the field.


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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 9:00 am 
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I'm no expert by any means, but everything I've read has suggested that cuir boulli was quite uncommon overall, and the prevalence of other armors varied widely between periods and cultures.

Maille, for instance, was relatively uncommon among vikings (like swords), but quite common by the 13th century. While full plate suits weren't ever available beyond the wealthy, "munitions grade" inexpensive partial plate suits did become relatively common late in period.

To my understanding, the history of armor in western europe is one of successive layers, with more layers being available later and with more funds. Most everyone would wear at least a padded jack or gambeson, underneath (metal) brigandine or coat-of-plates, and/or maille as available, and finally all that under partial or full plate.

Notice that nowhere in that list is anything like the kind of leather lorica, arm cannons, etc. that are so prevalent in our field. Hardened leather was certainly common in a few specific times and cultures, and as the backing for splinted armor, but I know of nothing to suggest it was as common as you might think, nor that it was used as we use it.

Also, while leather does rot that doesn't mean that everyone could have been wearing it and we just don't know it any more. Plenty of leather has survived, not to mention artworks of all sorts which can tell us a great deal about what was actually used.

The problem isn't cost, it's effectiveness. If I were going to a knife fight I'd put on my leather because it'd probably help. I'd also put on my maille, though, because I know it would help. And if it were a sword fight, rather than a knife fight, I wouldn't expect the leather to do anything more than save me from a glancing cut.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:33 pm 
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Non-hardened leather is NOT armor.

Hardened leather was MAD uncommon as armor in period when compared to padded armors, maille, and splinted/plated armors (like lamellar or scale or CoP or whatever, not articulated plate).


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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 8:01 am 
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Arrakis wrote:
Non-hardened leather is NOT armor.

Hardened leather was MAD uncommon as armor in period when compared to padded armors, maille, and splinted/plated armors (like lamellar or scale or CoP or whatever, not articulated plate).


Oh no question. It was rather rare in Europe. Probably used to supplement a footsoldier's limited plate, scale, or chain if anything. If you had the money and time to buy a hardened leather piece, you probably had the money to put thin metal plates over it, band it, or do any number of other things with it that would make it stop being just a leather armor piece.

It was more common in the Middle East and Orient though to have various types of leather as armor than it was in Europe.

And there is no question that the stuff we use for bel isn't armor. No question at all. It might be great against someone wielding a swiss army knife, but thats about it. I am under no illusion that it was probably never used for helms, and shoulder pieces. I'm not talking about people running around in full leather suits of armor, i was referring more to the general uses for which a hardened leather armor would be really good. For instance, hardened leather on the forearm and shin would be really handy if you didn't have access to plate, banded, or scale.

My only point is to say that it was probably more prevalent than is commonly thought.


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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 8:16 am 
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Sure. Maybe one of these days I'll dredge up some of the documentation the SCA has found for courbouilli arm defenses... mid-late period Italian, I think they were?


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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:39 am 
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Kade2187 wrote:
And there is no question that the stuff we use for bel isn't armor. No question at all. It might be great against someone wielding a swiss army knife, but thats about it.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that. Sure, a great deal of people wear unhardened, minimum thickness leather but I would say that just as many wear water or wax hardened as well. Besides, I'd rather be wearing 3/16ths worth of soft leather than nothing at all if I were in “real” combat.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:54 pm 
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Kade2187 wrote:
Arrakis wrote:
Non-hardened leather is NOT armor.

Hardened leather was MAD uncommon as armor in period when compared to padded armors, maille, and splinted/plated armors (like lamellar or scale or CoP or whatever, not articulated plate).


Oh no question. It was rather rare in Europe. Probably used to supplement a footsoldier's limited plate, scale, or chain if anything. If you had the money and time to buy a hardened leather piece, you probably had the money to put thin metal plates over it, band it, or do any number of other things with it that would make it stop being just a leather armor piece.

It was more common in the Middle East and Orient though to have various types of leather as armor than it was in Europe.

And there is no question that the stuff we use for bel isn't armor. No question at all. It might be great against someone wielding a swiss army knife, but thats about it. I am under no illusion that it was probably never used for helms, and shoulder pieces. I'm not talking about people running around in full leather suits of armor, i was referring more to the general uses for which a hardened leather armor would be really good. For instance, hardened leather on the forearm and shin would be really handy if you didn't have access to plate, banded, or scale.

My only point is to say that it was probably more prevalent than is commonly thought.

I was going to stay out of this, but seriously, if you want to argue that something is "probably more prevalent than is commonly thought" then you believe you are changing the way people perceive something. In such situations it is usually best to provide some evidence for one's opinions. IMO doesn't carry much weight in REAL history.

It is fun to talk about armor, it's fun to make armor, it's fun to kill people in armor, but if you want to discuss history and reality and what people in the past did with their armor, quote some sources other than the general feelings you have growing up with a TV, D&D and a fascination with fighting and stuff.

Be specific and back it up, armchair cowboy.

From what I have seen, cultures that frequently used hardened animal skins usually used rawhide rather than hardening a tanned hide. We do that now because it's easier for us, like butted mail and a lot of other little things. You might find this book of interest: http://books.google.com/books?id=JYSqNL ... navlinks_s

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 1:48 pm 
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You make it sound like theres some sort of argument going on here...

In any case, my Google works just as well as yours does. Do you really want me to start linking you examples of leather armor used in the period by various cultures? I can, but if figured if i can look it up so can you, and ill be honest, it's an opinion because it doesn't have a historical backing to it. It's not like im on a dig in northern England digging stuff up. If i had a historical backing for my opinion, it would be a fact and not an opinion.

My only assertion was that leather armor in various forms, functions, and shapes, was in use as a common armor, probably more so than plate because of the cost and weight associated with plate, and when i mean plate, i do mean, large solid plates. Not banded armor, scale armor, chain mail, etc etc. just plate. And in this instance when i refer to leather armor, i do mean any armor with leather as the base whether that be brigantine, scale, banded, ring, or any of the other leather base armors.

please note that I'm not trying to pass any of this off as fact, nor am i trying to convince anyone else of its veracity. I'm only exploring the possibility and in my "opinion" the likelihood. Thats all.

Having said that, the book you linked is quite fascinating. When im off work ill give it a look see.


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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 2:07 pm 
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Kade2187 wrote:
...And in this instance when i refer to leather armor, i do mean any armor with leather as the base whether that be brigantine, scale, banded, ring, or any of the other leather base armors.[...]


This may just be a case of not knowing the terminology that's come to be accepted within our little subculture, but the majority of people on these boards wouldn't consider any of those to be leather armor. The protection of the armor isn't really coming from the leather, it's coming from the metal attached to it. For that matter, most of those armors were commonly made using cloth instead of leather anyway. The leather, when present, is just serving as a backing material to hold everything in place while the metal saves your life.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 2:21 pm 
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I came out pretty harsh, there. Let me try to be more friendly:

Kade2187 wrote:
And in this instance when i refer to leather armor, i do mean any armor with leather as the base whether that be brigantine, scale, banded, ring, or any of the other leather base armors.

Most of these from your list, brigandine, scale and banded armors (CoP) rarely use leather, but were attached to/with cloth - see the excavations from Towton and Wisby as examples. Using this definition, however we pretty much only have articulated plate as metal armor. *edit: Chicken beat me to this, but I'll leave it in.

Returning to your original statement,
Kade2187 wrote:
i am curious as to the historical argument that was made. The argument was that plate was far more prevalent than leather for armor.

I really don't think anyone here would argue that full articulated plate was more common than your definition of leather armor. On a European battlefield almost everyone would be wearing "leather armor" as defined above. I think what people wanted was to see more exposed metal on the field, including plate and lamellar, riveted iron brigandine and Coats of Plates. There is little metal on our fields because we are competitive and metal encumbers more than leather.

Like Chicken said above, the biggest LARPism we are guilty of is making leather armor that imitates articulated and laminated plate armors, which was pretty rare historically, but dominates our fields. So people wanted to encourage plate by giving it an advantage within the game.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 3:21 pm 
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Kade2187 wrote:
Do you really want me to start linking you examples of leather armor used in the period by various cultures?



If you actually know of any good, referenced, peer-reviewed type sources that talk seriously and scientifically about the use of leather as an armoring material in our period (pre-1600-ish), yes, please do link it! That would be very helpful to Belegarth!


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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:05 pm 
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Kade, this field is better-documented than you think it is.

The error in your thinking is that you've concluded that leather armour was inexpensive.

Leather was not a good material for poor man's armour during the middle ages at all. The poor ate little meat, and didn't have access to all that much leather.

What the poor wore in medieval Europe--and most other cultures, too--was armour made from cloth. Padded jacks, gambesons, aketons--whatever the term, these were pretty much the only option open to poor combatants if they couldn't afford metal armour. And again, as others have mentioned above, most of the "reinforced foundation" armour types you claim as being consisting of metal on leather were really metal on cloth. There are one or two surviving brigandines, one of which is in a French museum, that feature leather as a decorative material over the heavy canvas foundation, but none at all in which the plates are mounted on leather and nothing else.

Leather, especially hardened leather, was for rich men. Charles Ffoulkes' The Armourer and His Craft relates a portion of a chronicle in which a French writer states that cuir-bouilli armour was fit only for a man who was "point gentilhomme," that is, every inch a gentleman.

Leather survives quite a bit more frequently in the archaeological record than you seem to think it does. We have many, many surviving leather shoes, and countless other articles in museums the world over. But very little armour.

You're going to have to come up with some firm evidence to support your position that leather armour was more common than steel plate.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:49 am 
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What Steelclad said . . . as usual, he's got his stuff straight.

Did leather armour exist? Yes.

Was it ever a common form of armour in Europe? No.

The poorer man's armour was linen, in layers, in some cases waxed or otherwise hardened/laminated, in some cases just sewn together in layers. It works much the same was as kevlar, and linen is relatively very resistant to cutting so it works fairly well. Not as well as maille, of course, but it works well enough.

Even that would be out of reach of the poorest, though--linen wasn't cheap, and a lot of people wouldn't have been able to afford any of it, let along a garment of many layers of it, although in some areas of course linen cloth was produced at home from homegrown flax, so it might have been available even to those who couldn't have actually bought it.

Even just throwing on every tunic you've got would give you SOME protection.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:31 pm 
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I'm a huge proponent of leather armor, but, Vegtable taned leather like we use didn't exsist. Something like it did, but not everywher, all the time.
Although, the hard leather forearm armor as used extensively in the middle east and india earlier and for a longer period than anywhere. Lowwer leg protection, too.
Most acconts of "leather armor"are talking about Hide armor. Like raiwhide with furr attached. This was usually an improvised kind of thing.
Our armor might as ell be plastic, but it wouldn't look as cool.
Very few people use proper leather, like sole bends, to make thier armor. It's way more expensive and is harder to work with. But in the end, what you have is real armor. As sword resistant as maile, at least. Probly closer to plate.
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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:55 pm 
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I think that you're very wrong about that, FB.

I think that, as a leather craftsman with SCA experience, a specialized sport in which leather armour IS highly effective, you're severely overrating the effectiveness of leather armour--either that or underrating how incredibly effective steel plate armour is, as well as (admittedly to a lesser degree) well made maille.

Full-thickness rawhide armour, especially scale over a backing of the same material, would be a useful armour . . . but neither as effective nor as durable as metal armour. In my mind, it is very telling that in the cultures where both were available, those who could afford expensive armour chose metal . . . every time, even if they did accessorize with leather at times.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:44 pm 
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I recall reading about cuirbouilli being just nonsensically expensive. It was mentioned that a tournament suit of cuirbouilli was armor for only for the man "every inch a gentleman", period-speak for "only affordable to the fabulously wealthy". Of course, those were gold-gilt tournament suits never worn into real combat in late period France...


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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2009 8:41 am 
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Im a welder. I have been for 15 years.
I know steel. I know it better than I know any other material. Steel is not all you think it is. Modern steel is like modern leather, a product of the 20th centuries awesome high speed manufacturing and processing world.
Trust me, you are overesimating its a)durabilty b) it's availabilty and c)the type of steel available in period. Modern steel is just as far from the kind of ting availabe inperiod as veg-tan leather is from the kind of leather availabe inperiod.
And all I said was sole bend is nearly as protecive. If you don't think so, you haven't done eough tests on it yourself. I have. Sole bend leather is nearly imposble to get through with the amountof force you can generate with a hand weapon. Unless you use a back spike on an axe or hammer, which goes through steel plate like butter, too. A 2 hand thrust with a spear oes through it, but it goes RIGHT through steel as well. A single slash donesn't get through it, at least not one I can do. You can hack it apart eventualy, but if you do that with steel it deforms so much it wouldn't be effective armor anymore either. And in a fight, why would you stand there and let some one hack repeatedly on you?
Anyway, I was agreeing with you guys leather armor(especialy what w use) ain't real armor. I also pointed out that armor can be made from leather and be "real", but people don't do it. And that people used leather more extensivly than some of you think, but not as much as this beastmaster tool thinks.
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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2009 9:16 am 
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I don't think anyone disputes that modern steel is generally better than steel made in the preindustrial world, Forkbeard, but I do think that Oisin makes a good point about those who could afford to have a choice in the matter of armour selection opting to go with steel nearly every time.

Yes, leather can be quite tough and hard. But what it can't offer is the smooth, glass-hard glancing surface that steel plate features. I think that's the number one attraction of steel plate armour.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2009 5:25 pm 
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The other important point that we, as boffer fighters, rarely see is that leather armour degrades very quickly in combat, whereas metal armour can be repaired and fixed after it's dented and abused.

Real armoured combat was nothing like Belegarth fighting. People actively used their armour as part of their defense in a way that our "one hit and it's gone" system cannot allow, because in real life real armour was a lot more resilient than we give it credit for.

Take, say, a knight in a set of late 14th century transitional plate and maille over appropriate padded garments. You can cut at him all day with an arming sword (what blue swords were called in real life in the high/late middle ages) and not hurt him or do any significant damage to his armour. If you're strong and have a good sword, you might dent his armour, bruise him, or maybe even break a link or two of maille, but you aren't going to significantly injure him, and that damage to the armour can be fixed in an insignificant amount of time by a skilled metalworker. Peen out the dents, rivet in a few extra links of maille, and you're done. This sort of invulnerability to cuts from a single-handed sword was part of the assumption under which plate and even maille armoured soldiers fought.

If you have a sword with a thrusting tip designed to penetrate armour, and you have the skill to outfight him, you can thrust into the gaps in his plate at, say, the neck or armpit, or try and put it through his visor. Or, if you have a halberd or a poleaxe or a greatsword, you can try to hack through with sheer force and brutality. Or, if you have a mace, you can try and knock his crown in . . . these are all specialized weapons designed to defeat well armoured opponents, but even then they don't render the armour useless, you still have to strike a vulnerable spot with real force behind the blow to penetrate.

Now, dress that same guy up in a suit of leather armour with the same amount of padded protection as you gave your man in steel, and every cut that the leather armour stops degrades the quality of the suit in a way that cannot be repaired. You cannot make leather grow back together. If it's scale or lamellar you can take out the damaged pieces and replace them, but that takes more time, and cannot be done in the middle of battle. If you let all your buddies line up and take three unopposed swings at the guy in leather with that arming sword above, eventually (and I don't think eventually would take too long) someone is going to cut through the leather and start doing real damage. And don't even start thinking about what would happen to that leather breastplate if you started thrusting at it with a penetrating sword . . . or what would happen to that leather helmet the very first time you knocked on it with the business end of a poleaxe. You'd be toast.

Leather armour is certainly better than just your clothes, and it may or may not be better than laminated linen armour (I don't know, but in period it was a metric **** ton more expensive), but it still isn't going to protect you nearly as well as metal armour. That argument has no ground to stand on.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2009 9:54 am 
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Man, you are hard to agree with.
You're absolutly right about late mideval armor.
I usually think in the Roman era, I think thats where we get most of our misunderstandings, Oisin. I just realized that. Huh.
Anyway, like I said, I agree, most Bel fighters don't own and haven't seen real armor. I have some, but I don't wear it for Bel.
I might next season, but I might go the other direction and start wearing totaly fantasy mad max type armor. I haven't decided. I did just make a new helmet looks like the guitar player from GWAR.
I will say, my current Bel armor is way more comprehensive than most peoples and it ain't even close to "real armor". When I talk about the "real armor" I have, it's the SCA stuff that I've made over the last couple years. And still, I don't wear the whole, properly padded underlayers and ****. I would, but it's hot and I don't need it. It's not like anybody is going to come at me with a real sword.
FB

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2009 10:53 pm 
Skull Crusher
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pics forkbeard, pics.

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2009 12:55 am 
Skull Crusher
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Fork, I don't think you were agreeing with the main thing I was trying to say (aka, leather armour of any sort no matter how well made) provides inferior protection to that afforded by either maille or plate. If you were, sorry, it's sometimes hard to tell exactly what you're trying to say . . . plus, we seem to have a bad habit of misunderstanding each other on the forums. Should sit down and talk at an event sometime, but I realize you're rarely in the east and I'm never in the west, so that's unlikely (especially now that I'm trying to move to North Carolina, putting me out of reach of the Belegarth heartland events :( ).

In any case, I don't know enough about Roman ironworking technology to say anything about the quality of their plate armour, but I do know that they produced very, very fine maille that matches for quality anything made at any time.

Wearing real armour for Belegarth is fun, Fork . . . you should try it out sometime. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2009 7:13 am 
Grizzled Veteran
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I wore chainmail for a coulple years. It's heavy and it gets all my stuff really dirty/rusty. I wore a knee length hauberk for 2 seasons. Then I started really working leather. My leather is only about 10 lbs. lighter, but my othe gear stays reasonably clean and the stuff in my armor bag no longer gets rusty.
And I really think our disagrements stem from the fact that I always am in kind of an early Iron age-late bronze age mind set. It's just where my mind automaticly goes when I think about Belegarth(or most other swordfighting type crap). I always go back to the classical. Dudes in robes and sandals, cause it's so **** hot. Like it is where I live.
I never really thought about that till yesterday.
FB

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 Post subject: Re: Plate vs Leather
PostPosted: Thu Oct 08, 2009 10:06 pm 
Grunt
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SCA makes significant use of wax-hardened leather because it's good against blunt impacts with their type of weapon.

However, it's not of great use against a blade. In fact, waxed leather lubricates against a blade, making it EASIER to cut.

Actually plate started out not as steel but iron. In fact IIRC some studied was sorta-iron-here and sorta-steel-there.

Eventually plate did evolve into tempered steel which was quite strong.

Part of the value of plate is simply forcing your enemy to drop light, fast swords in favor of polearms or slower, less versatile single-strikepoint weapons like hammers. And these long-swing-motion hits could likely be caught and deflected, the fighter will not simply stand there and take hits. A deflection leading to a hit, or a shorter swing, would likely be ineffective.


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